Many times, both at my church and even on this website I have referred to the fact that I am personally on a quest for the radical middle. This at times has caused confusion. Not so much at my church since they know me and see what I mean being played out in my life, but it has at times caused confusion to those that regularly read what is written here on Taber’s Truths.
What Is The Radical Middle?
I must confess, at different times in my life, I have fallen off target. When I have, it has usually been in one or both of these areas. Either I have gotten off target intellectually or emotionally. However, I have found that I am not alone. Most of us are moved and motivated either by intellect or emotion. Neither of those things are bad in and of themselves, but when they are not balanced they can become bad.
In Christianity these two areas are best observed in these words. In our intellect and our reasoning you can see people somewhere on a scale between legalism and liberalism. Either they are sifting every word of scripture for rule and regulation attempting to make sure that they are pleasing God with their actions and beliefs, or they are dismissive of the very basic tenets of faith and swallowing every new idea and thought that might come their way. These two positions are what I see as the polar opposites of the intellectual part of Christianity. In the emotional part of Christianity, you can best describe the scale as being between hyper-emotionalism and stoicism. You either have people jumping off the pews and having huge displays of emotion in services or you have those that feel any display of emotion is not godly. You have the polar opposites of emotion ruling the day or you have no expression of emotion at all.
So when you look at all four of these extremes, you see that they make two lines intersecting at some point. So to me, the radical middle is the point when you get all 4 extremes to intersect at the middle point between them.
The tension between legalism and liberalism
I am neither a legalist or a liberal. Legalism is man’s attempt to use his own power to please God. The Bible clearly states that God was and is pleased with us because of what Jesus has done. The work of Christ on the cross is a finished work.
Liberalism is man’s attempt to make the gospel acceptable to the unsaved. They water down or eliminate what is seen as foolish by those that are wise in the world’s eyes. The Bible clearly states that the cross of Christ is foolishness to the world. The attempt to make the gospel acceptable is actually self defeating. By doing so you eliminate the power to change the lives of people.
The radical middle, and that is why I call it the radical middle is the place that most people do not end up falling into. They either sway to the side of legalism or liberalism because the middle is the place that is most uncomfortable. It is the place where you have to depend on the grace of God for all of your Christian life and you have to depend on the power of God to change you and those around you. Jesus was neither a legalist nor a liberal. He criticized both. To the Pharisee, He criticized them for their hypocricy. To the Liberal or Sadducee, He criticized them for their lack of faith.
The tension between hyper-emotionalism and stoicism.
I believe that most Christians will at least give lip service to the fact that God is the one who created emotions. However how people deal with emotions is something that can sometimes be hotly debated.
Hyper-emotionalism would say that if people’s emotions are touched then the Spirit of God has moved. That it is evidence of God being amongst them. This position forgets that emotions can be manipulated. In my own life as a musician and a pastor I have discovered that I have the ability to move people’s emotions. It is called “hype”.
Stoicism would contend that emotions are fickle and not to be trusted and as such they cannot be of God because they cannot be trusted. Stoicism forgets that Jesus not only saves our eternal soul, but that same soul is where the seat of emotions lie. Many times there can be honest expressions of emotion that are brought on by the fact that God is doing something in a person’s heart. How can Jesus come and live in someone’s heart and it not be a moving experience emotionally?
So once again the radical middle is between these two positions and once again it is the place that most people do not arrive at. If a person is naturally emotional then they usually sway to the camp that is open to all sorts of emotion and if they are more reserved due to culture or upbringing then they sway closer to the stoic side of things. The radical middle is the place where it is understood that there is a difference between hype and somebody sincerely moved because of what Jesus is doing. It is the place where emotions are not given a place of leadership but neither are they given no place at all.
Jesus wept, He got angry, He laughed and celebrated. These were all good and healthy things in their proper place and with their proper understanding but it wasn’t emotion that led Him to the obedience of the cross. It was His character.
So what is the radical middle?
To me, the radical middle is the place where you balance these 4 things in the middle using Jesus as your example. I believe that is why Jesus was hated by all those that practiced religion and why He was loved by the average Joe.